Diversity In Medicine

Academic Probation to Medical School

My name is Erik and I am a first-generation Mexican American 3rd year medical student at VCOM-Auburn. My parents came from Mexico in their late teens with very little personal belongings and money. They were chasing the American Dream to one day have a better life for themselves and their family. They met and settled down in California and the rest was history.

As a child I remember wanting to grow up to be a pro athlete. The idea of pursuing medicine never really crossed my mind. Nobody in my family had gone to college let alone medical school. My parents were blue collar workers, so medicine was very uncharted territory for me. My mom a few times mentioned becoming a doctor, lawyer, or engineer because I was “good” at math. In all honesty though I brushed that off and thought I was going to become a pro athlete (lol).

Like most people, I had an experience that gave me the desire to pursue medicine. To make a long story short my Dad got a severe case of pneumonia. I remember it being the summer when I was 13 years old. Within the span of a month my dad’s health quickly deteriorated and found himself in the ICU fighting for his life. The doctors told my family they were not sure if he was going to make it. Those times were rough for us as a family. I remember crying myself to sleep numerous nights. Luckily, my dad made a recovery, but I hope to never experience something like that again. So, in my eyes those doctors were heroes because they saved my dad’s life. I wanted to be just like those doctors and maybe one day save a life myself. 

Fast forward to my undergraduate year at UCI I remember how excited I was to attend my first lecture as a Biological Sciences major. I was premed so I was set on doing well in my classes in hopes of gaining acceptance into medical school. Well, after a successful first quarter, it quickly went down hill from there. I received my first “D” in general chemistry and was disappointed in myself. Getting a D, F, or even a C could potentially hurt your chances at gaining acceptance into medical school. I did my best to not completely freak out. I took a deep breath and told myself it is okay because I can still recover from this. I wanted to improve and have a nice upward trend in grades by my senior year. That did not happen. Grades kept getting worse and eventually I was put on “Academic Probation” and then kicked out of my major. So, during my third year I had to switch majors and unfortunately it felt like the school gave up on me. That was a low point in my life. I felt like an absolute failure. Like I let myself and family down. I did not know what to do with myself at that point. I considered alternative career options. I thought maybe medicine just was not for me if I could not do well in my courses.

After much thought and some soul searching, I told myself I was not ready to give up. I figured it was too soon to give up and there was still much I could do to gain acceptance into medical school. My decision was to attend a post-baccalaureate program after graduation instead of applying into medical school. In this program I would take the same courses that first year medical students took. After my disastrous time at UCI, this was my best bet at gaining admission into a US medical school. So, after a year in the program I did well enough to gain admission into medical school at VCOM-Auburn. 

Final advice for aspiring medical students:

1. Do your own research.

You want to know what it’s going to take to get into medical school and a mentor can help you by providing guidance and motivation. 

2. Do not let anyone tell you what you are capable of.

You know yourself best and, in the end, it is up to you to go out and get it done. 

3. Know that there are multiple ways and routes you can take to gain acceptance into medical school.

There is not a one size fits all for getting into medical school. I hope my story helps at least one person go out and chase their dreams weather that be in medicine or not. I had no guidance on how to get into medical school and major setbacks that made it seem out of reach for me. I am now in my 3rd year doing clinical rotations so I guess you could say it all worked out in the end 😊

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